Calvin Cheng's comments on 'killing children' insensitive, but not hate speech, says Media Literacy Council

Mr Cheng said that his original comment was deliberately provocative, so as to stir debate.
Mr Cheng said that his original comment was deliberately provocative, so as to stir debate. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Media Literacy Council (MLC) member Calvin Cheng has apologised for controversial comments he made online about killing the children of terrorists.

The comment that he made on Nov 17 appeared on a thread on the Facebook page of Mr Devadas Krishnadas, chief executive officer of the Future-Moves Group.

The four-line post by Mr Cheng seemed to advocate killing the children of terrorists "in case they grow up to take revenge".

The former Nominated Member of Parliament apologised to fellow members of the MLC, the Media Development Authority (MDA) and his supporters in a post published in the early hours of Saturday (Nov 28).

"I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to my fellow MLC members, the MDA and my supporters for not having been more careful as a public figure who has made many enemies online in these 5 years," he wrote on Facebook.

Mr Cheng also said in a blog post that his original comment was deliberately provocative, so as to stir debate, but represents a "deeper argument that is founded on logic".

His apology came hours after the Council issued a statement which said that Mr Cheng's comments , although insensitive, did not amount to hate speech.

The Council's chair Professor Tan Cheng Han said that after considering all points of view carefully, he was "unable to conclude that what Mr Cheng said as a whole amounts to hate speech".

"In arriving at this view, I took into account the initial discussion thread, the medium of communication, and Mr Cheng's subsequent blog post where he elaborated on his views," Dr Tan said in the statement.

He added that Mr Cheng has to "visibly uphold the values that the Council espouses", thus his comments were insensitive and inappropriate for a member of the council.

"I have spoken to Mr Cheng and counselled him that as a member of the Council he will be held to and judged by a higher standard compared to a private citizen," Dr Tan said.

Journalism professor and former MLC member Cherian George said he was happy to see this response in a comment on the Council's Facebook page.

"As a former member of the MLC, I'm happy to see this response. MLC shouldn't police the content of debates, but it can occasionally signal what it considers to be a breach of the norms that it wants to encourage, as part of its educational role. Online discussion is a grand and worthwhile experiment, and we can all learn from one another's mistakes," he wrote.

The Council's members, who come from various industry and community groups, are appointed by the Minister for Communications and Information and they serve a two-year term on a voluntary basis.

MLC's roles include advising the Government on research, trends and developments pertaining to the Internet and media, and developing public awareness and education programmes relating to media literacy and cyber wellness.